Last month, Leo Varadkar, the caretaker prime minister, reactivated his registration as a medical doctor and said he would spend half a day each week fielding calls from people who believe they have contracted the coronavirus.
His decision to go back to work as a physician was motivated by a desire to help ease the burden on health care workers, his spokesman said. He also issued a plea for emigrant Irish doctors and nurses, and others who had left the field, to return to help with the surge of patients. So far, 60,000 have responded.
Ireland has not escaped the scourge of the coronavirus, with 263 deaths, 6,574 confirmed cases, and the expectation is that both numbers will spike in the coming weeks.
Although Dr. Varadkar, 41, was considered a spent force in Irish politics after his party finished last in a three-way Parliamentary race in February, he is now winning praise for his energetic handling of the crisis. He canceled St. Patrick’s Day festivities, oversaw an aggressive early testing program, closed pubs and schools earlier than other European leaders and has spoken to the public about the contagion in honest, humane terms — in other words, like the general practitioner he once was.
“He was at sixes and sevens after the election, but he is perceived as having gotten back on track,” said Pat Leahy, the political editor of The Irish Times. “There is a sense that he showed strong, quick leadership in getting to grips with it.”
To the extent Mr. Varadkar’s training has informed his response to the pandemic, analysts said, it has mainly been in his heeding of expert advice, particularly from Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tony Holohan. He also has a firsthand grasp of the importance of masks, surgical gloves and gowns.